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Women entrepreneurs pushing forward

Thursday 16 February 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Business, Local, National

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Women entrepreneurs pushing forward
Women entrepreneurs visit Davina Hosking-Ashford’s (pictured far right) Cook Islands Hub business. 23021521

The number of women in business in the Cook Islands has increased within the past three years indicating that during times of adversity women persevere.

Cook Islands has seen a growth in female entrepreneurs since 2019, says local businesswoman Ana File-Heather, who is the founder of the Taki Tahi “start-up” project.

“Looking around you can see more women in business since 2019 and you could see that coming up, and during the Covid period there were more who increased their ‘side hustle’ turning it into their full-time jobs which is really cool to see.”

File-Heather recently facilitated a free online business incubator “Dreambuilder” course for local women. The course was sponsored by the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs and the US Embassy.

Sixteen women from the islands of Aitutaki, Manihiki, Mauke and Rarotonga completed the weeklong course last week.

The 13-module course ran through the various stages of business, from starting out, exploring concepts or ideas through to the registration of a business and the financial side.

“This course is to help women in business by providing opportunities and so they’re able to understand all the different concepts that go into having a business,” said File-Heather.

“(Also) To give the girls a good grasp and idea of what they can do in terms of growth because sometimes you are only looking at what you can do on a small scale, but with perseverance and working hard you can grow into something like this.”

The women visited service providers on the island such as the Business Trade Investment Board (BTIB), Chamber of Commerce, the Business Hub and met with the president of the Cook Islands Business & Professional Women (BPW) and the Cook Islands National Council of Women.

File-Heather said taking the women into the offices of the service providers was exciting for them.

“They were able to see what these service providers could do for them and they’ve gone away with lots of contacts and information so they can start applying for stuff.”

Site visits to businesses led and run by women were also arranged. The businesses included Island Craft, Fave Designs, Tevai Napa Local Salon, Kai n Co and several women in the beauty industry. 

Specialised presentations were delivered by Tony Fe’ao on marketing and Iokopeta Williams on finance.

“This course was really useful in understanding how to do your bookkeeping and we had a big section on finance,” said File-Heather.

During the course the women from the Pa Enua noted “freight issues” as the biggest challenge they face, especially for those in the North if they were to expand their business to Rarotonga or even to replenish their stock.

One of the big issues businesswomen in Rarotonga faced was the processes of getting capital funding and a bank loan.

Those who graduate from the course can compete for a grant and go through another networking group where there are opportunities that come through from the US Embassy, and a lot of support for mentoring.

“The more women who go through the course and understand business a bit better this will help them,” said File-Heather.

The participants who took part in last week’s course were Luana Abraham, Ria Arthur, Peniana Crocombe, Toka Charlie, Nitika Karaponga, Kali Maclean-Mcmahon, Jane Makira, April Mana, Maria Maoate, Vaea Maoate, Grace Raea, Jemina Samson Tangi, Charlize Tuara, Tasha Van Mierlo, Akaauariki William and Mireille Winchester.